Roberto Ferri: A Modern Renaissance
The revival of classical art from the brush and imagination of Italian artist, Roberto Ferri.
By: Kyle Haffermann
Assisted by: Anthony Price
"Requium" Oil on Canvas. 80 x 80 inches.
Roberto Ferri’s paintings seem to be born of a long-standing Italian tradition for fine painting. Inspired by the likes of the Baroque era, Ferri adds the same depth of imagination with a contemporary twist. Currently residing in Rome, he is surrounded by the classic paintings and artistic imagination of greats like DaVinci, Michelangelo, and one of his inspirations, Caravaggio. With commissions from private buyers and the Catholic Church, a painting of his is to be collected and admired, framing excellence. As an artist whose work is closely tied to emotions, his work evokes the pleasant and dark sides of humanity. Through this type of introspective exploration in his work, he comes closer to his own understanding of what it means to be an artist, perhaps furthering the work of the greats who have gone before him.
Study of the human figure.
Tell us about your recent exhibition in Milan.
Oscura Luce is one of my last projects, done together with the Liquid Art System gallery curated by Angelo Lorenzo Crespi. The works present perfectly represent my poetics, with strong contrasts between light and shadow, there are two examples of the works Schiava della luce and Schiavo della ombra. The works were almost all unpublished, including an autobiographical work that I care a great deal about, The black mirror, from which I decided not to separate.
How long does it take you to produce a painting?
the creation of a painting does not have defined times. It can be born spontaneously and be finished in one day or last for months or even years.
What are some of your artistic inspirations?
My painting is born of strong emotions, pain, love. I draw inspiration from everything that surrounds me, from what I live and from what I dream of. My painting is very esoteric.
Do you have a favorite painting?
I love all my paintings, but in particular one of my last paintings, "Lo specchio nero" [The Black Mirror].
How do you choose your models and subjects for the work?
I choose my models as a director chooses the actors for his film. When I find someone who interests me, I already see them as if they were part of one of my paintings.
You seem to work with many different body types and ages. Why?
Every painting needs different models, Leonardo said so, not to always paint the same person for his paintings. So I prefer to choose the model / a depending on the painting to be painted
Do you work on multiple pieces at the same time?
Oil painting allows me to paint multiple paintings at the same time. The glazings require long drying times, so in the meantime a painting dries, I can start another one.
"The Sepulcher of the Lover" 40 x 50 inches. Oil on Canvas. 2014.
Would you consider your work to be apart of the kitsch movement, helping to revive the classical style of painting?
In 2010 at Palazzo Cini in Venice, I took part in a very nice exhibition on kitsch with the painter Odd Nerdrum. To date, I do not feel the need to take part in any movement, since classical figurative painting is returning to relive in the contemporary art scene.
In a recent fashion exhibition in New York City, the MET had an exhibition titled “Heavenly Bodies” celebrating the role of the Catholic Church’s influence on fashion and art. As seen in your work, it has also influenced some of your paintings. What is it about the Catholic Church and its imagery that draws artists and designers alike?
I had some commissions related to the Church, I always try to maintain my personality and my poetics in the paintings, although obviously I am more free in my production without commissions.
What drew you towards emulating baroque painters, in particular, Caravaggio?
The love for the old masters and in particular Caravaggio has been born in me since I was a child. I have always studied their painting, I was and still amazed by the atmospheres present in the old paintings, by the rigor with which they painted and I try to revive that ancient splendor, with the great dedication I have always had from the beginning.
How do you like to add in aspects of nature into your works, which mainly focus on one to three people?
I often include parts of nature in my paintings, especially branches, dry trees, roots, rocks. Strengthen the bond of man with the earth and with its origins.
Some of the earlier works include shifting faces or more demonic imagery. Why? (For reference, Adoratio Mortis)
And many subjects often have the face or parts of the body mutating or decomposing. This is to represent the dark part of us that we do not know.
"Evocation" 30 x 60 inches. Oil on Canvas. 2017.
Compared to your earlier works, your newer paintings favor lighter color schemes and brighter lighting. Why?
I feel the need now to represent my subjects in clearer environments, sometimes the dark part of us is hidden even in bright light.
Is there an exhibit or collection of which you are particularly proud?
I am proud of many of my exhibitions, including the last ones mentioned above. In 2016 the one at the Castle of Gaasbeek in Belgium, a perfect location for my paintings. I also remember my past exhibitions at the Vittoriano in 2009 and at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome in 2013.
How was it creating fragrances inspired by your works?
A fun experience since I have a great passion for perfumes and for the alchemy.
Why is the bare human form so integral to the composition of your paintings? Would you say that the nude figure represents an immediate level of vulnerability with the viewer?
The naked figure represents man in his essence and in his vulnerability, moreover he places him outside of every temporal position.
In your paintings between 2012-2014 I noticed there is a great deal of transformation happening with the subjects. What inspired this artistic choice?
Changes always occur in my paintings, I like to experiment continuously, even with different techniques. You never know where personal research will lead.
In another publication you said, “My goal is to create a red thread that is that of eternity, the eternity of a feeling.” Please comment on the importance of eternity and emotion in your work.
The emotion is eternal and with my work I try to give it shape to make it visible to everyone.
"Lucifer" 44 x 57 inches. Oil on Canvas. 2013.